Muscle Memory

Hosea 11:1-11

My girls had been begging to pull out home videos from the days when they were babies. We took a leisure morning and replayed the past, recounting birth announcements, first steps, Christmases, birthdays, vacations, and a few random life moments of twirling in princess dresses and living room dance parties. As we watched, I experienced a phenomenal flood of mental photographs. Moments that had settled to the back corners of my mind were catapulted to the front and suddenly I could remember the most obscure details. The sound of their baby voices triggered emotions and memories of cutting grapes into tiny bite-sized pieces and daily fearing I was doing it all wrong. I remember sleepless nights, when two straight hours of sleep was a victory and the pains of a tight pocketbook that limited our fun outings to story time at the library and picnics in the park. The loneliness and isolation of being a young mother was brought back into my rearview mirror. In the moment, life can seem so hard. But the videos reminded me that even though some moments were challenging, we smiled and danced through it.

Part of the joy of watching home videos in the present was being able to look over at my babies who are no longer babies drink in our story. These big kids, who can run on their own and do algebra, laughed in awe as they watched themselves learning life’s fundamentals. Muscle memory has a way of forgetting over time and we take for granted the effort put into learning these fundamentals. That’s why it is important to recount the story.

Hosea reminds us to recount the story. The priests were accused of failing to do their job. They have failed to teach God’s word and they have failed to instill the importance and practice of steadfastly loving God. Instead of preventing idolatry, they learned how to profit from it. Syncretism abounded. The people failed to acknowledge God as the giver the good gifts. Hosea reminds that religious practices are no substitute for steadfast love. God offers to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

When trouble arises, Israel looks to Assyria for help rather than to God. Without God’s presence, they are vulnerable to destruction, even if it is of their own doing. God’s desire for his people to know him and be faithful to him is not for his own benefit, but for theirs. In their rebellion, they are destined to return to slavery. God’s love for his people causes him to lament the absence of their reciprocation and repentance.

Hosea uses the mothering imagery to express the suffering heart of God for Israel. Like a mother holds little fingers while her young one is learning to take first steps, God reminds Israel that they haven never walked alone. The God of the universe desires to have a relationship with creation. Elizabeth Achtemeier, an Old Testament scholar, describes this holy metaphor beautifully. “’Yet it was I who taught you to walk’—God the Father bending down to offer a supporting finger to the unsteady, toddling infant Israel; letting him fall at times; encouraging his little steps; praising him when he does well; and then sweeping him up in his arms when he starts to cry, wiping away his tears, and comforting him against his cheek.”

God desires to offer creation the steadfast love that is experienced within the Triune God. God gives this steadfast love and desires to receive it. When we rebel, we reject this steadfast love and God knows that rebellion leads to self-destruction. God is willing to allow this punishment so that there can be restoration of steadfast love (hesed). He allows calamity to occur so that his children can be brought to a place where they are wiling to let restoration to take place. Restoration is always the goal of God’s judgment.

Watching my girls witness their own first words and steps was significant. Though they were there for those moments, they are too young to remember. Yet they can’t remember a time when I wasn’t there to lend a hand. They learned to reach out for a steady hand as infants and it was that training that prepared them to walk steadily now. But when the ground seems wobbly, they instinctively know where to reach out. That is the concept of reciprocated steadfast love that God desires with his people.

Do you remember learning to walk? Recount your story. Remember when the Lord held your hands and taught you to walk. Muscle memory has a way of forgetting over time. Don’t take for granted the effort put into learning these fundamentals. Seek the Lord and cling to his unfailing love.

God, help us as your people to be completely devoted to you. Help us to keep your word on our hearts so that we can experience community with you. Turn our hearts to you when they begin to wander, even if that means allowing us to experience difficult things. We trust you, Lord, to love us and restore the community you desire to have with us.

Summer Morris, Children’s Family Minister

North Davis Church of Christ, Arlington, TX